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LATEST REVIEWS
STAN & OLLIE
"A movie to, at the very least, really like, about all-time greats."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Stan and Ollie" is an affectionate film about a couple of people who, by all appearances, seem to deserve that affection, and that's not as easy to pull off as you might think. It's easy to wind up making something too lightweight, or insert too much external strife to create drama. This film rearranges things, but never loses track of how a great deal of what made Laurel & Hardy work on-screen is also what makes their real-life relationship compelling." (more)
INUYASHIKI
"Kids with tech are way more dangerous than the older guys with it."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: As much as the usual position of a fan is to look for fidelity in an adaptation, I was rather hoping that the feature film version of "Inuyashiki" would fix up a few problems the manga had, most importantly that the creator apparently found himself more interested in the villain than the title character. The filmmakers cut out some of the fat to be sure, but what they've come up with turns out to be a pretty faithful adaptation, warts and all. It's still kind of a blast, and who knows, maybe sequels will let them have a freer hand later." (more)
GLASS (2019)
"Superheroes: An Introduction"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With the exception of his super-obscure debut effort, I have seen all of the films made by M.Night Shyamalan over the years (yes, even the one with Rosie O’Donnell playing a nun) but when I entered the screening for his latest effort, “Glass,” I felt a sensation that I have never before associated with his work—a genuine sense of anticipation. To be honest, Shyamalan has never quite been my cup of tea—although an undeniably gifted stylist, he too often shoots himself in the foot with his oftentimes ludicrous plotting (especially regarding his increasingly dubious twist endings) and his occasional penchant for self-aggrandizement (this is a guy who once wrote a character in a script who was a writer whose work would one day literally change the world and then made sure to play the part himself). Even his breakthrough film, “The Sixth Sense,” did not impress me that much—it was well made and contained a nice performance by Bruce Willis but the whole thing was essentially an elongated “Twilight Zone” episode that wasn’t nearly as clever as it clearly thought itself to be. The one exception to this mild sense of disdain has always been “Unbreakable,” his haunting 2000 meditation on the whole superhero mythos starring Bruce Willis as a seemingly ordinary man who seemingly could not be injured and Samuel L. Jackson as the brittle-boned madman trying to get him to see his potential. This was a film that contained smart writing, strong performances, beautiful direction and a narrative that did not rely entirely on some goofball twist. Although perhaps not technically a part of the genre since it was not based on known characters, I would still rate it as one of the very best superhero movies ever made. Unfortunately, it arrived in theaters a few years before the current boom in superhero movies and while it was a hit, it wasn’t as big as many assumed it would be and the planned trilogy that Shyamalan had already been talking up at the time fell to the wayside." (more)
DESTROYER
"Capable crime needs compelling cops and crooks."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Destroyer" is a little better than the award-seeking gimmicks that show up front and center, but not by that much. The filmmakers tell their story of cynical cops and robbers well enough, but don't find a compelling reason to tell this particular story; there's a quick thrill as things click together in the end, but not quite to the point where one wants to go back and reconsider everything longer one is supposed to." (more)
REPLICAS
"Not even a bad copy of an interesting original."
1 stars
Jay Seaver says... "As much as we've all come to see Keanu Reeves not so much as a bad actor as a guy who can do quite well when he's playing something within a certain range, "ethically-conflicted scientist" is pretty damn far outside that comfort zone. It is, unfortunately, more or less the entirety of this movie, and makes "Replicas" a pretty tough slog. It's got about five times more in the way of interesting sci-fi ideas than it does actual story, and never finds a good way to close the gap." (more)
MODEST HEROES
"A good way to catch three quality shorts on the big screen."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Unsolicited advice to Studio Ponoc and GKids: Do not put the short with unsubtitled dialogue up front in a movie like this; depending where people see it, they will either assume the disc is defective or that the theater or Fathom Events screwed things up, especially if there's already a bad reputation there. But do keep making short films and packaging them for theaters like this; it's a nice anthology, both in terms of the individual shorts being good and the whole working as a unit." (more)
HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, THE (2018)
"You Don’t Want To Know Jack"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With a collection of elements that includes Matt Dillon, creepy vans, homages to the JFK assassination, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, walk-in freezers, the kind of pseudo-philosophical discussions rarely heard outside of dorm rooms at colleges whose accreditation is currently under review, the guy from that old commercial insisting that there was a direct line between listening to punk rock and owing a Subaru, mangled baby ducks, side trips into the depths of Hell, David Bowie songs, wallets made of extremely dubiously sourced leather and the apparent ability to fold time—how else to explain a running time that clocks in at 2 1/2 hours but feels at least six times longer?—there are times when one has to wonder whether “The House That Jack Built” is trying to be a movie or New York’s hottest club. Actually, the latest stab (among other methods of execution) at cinematic provocation by aging bad boy auteur Lars Von Trier is more like a once-edgy club that is long past its prime and reduced to increasingly desperate measures to call attention to itself by any means necessary. Old-timers who were around back when the Von Trier name meant something may find a couple of aspects to be of moderate interest while despairing of how far things have fallen since the good old days while newcomers to the fold will more likely come away bored and annoyed and wondering what all the fuss could have possibly been about in the first place. Either way, the end result is a work that even fans of the “Human Centipede” franchise might dismiss as being too coarse and obvious for their rarefied tastes." (more)
RIDER, THE
"Engrossing and authentic."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Show someone "The Rider" without any background, and they'll probably come away impressed; it's a fine independent film that tells its story with understated respect for its characters and creates a few striking images. Add that context, and it starts to feel a bit like a documentary. It's not, of course, but filmmaker Chloé Zhao is able to find a middle ground between what is real and what is crafted that makes both elements more effective and the film more compelling." (more)
WITCH IN THE WINDOW, THE
"Simple but very effective ghost story."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Thumbs up to "The Witch in the Window" being a 75-minute horror movie, which is almost always the best length for movies in the genre to be. May filmmakers' increasing recognition of streaming services as their ultimate landing spot keep them from adding fifteen to twenty unneeded minutes going forward. It's not always going to result in something as naturally compact and effective as this, but that's something to strive for." (more)
DARK MONEY
"Explains a tricky concept clearly, and what more do you need?"
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Dark Money" is a decent documentary on what can be a confusing minefield of a topic, though maybe not the sort of electrifying one that injects information and understanding directly into the brain. It's useful and informative, of the moment but not likely in any danger of becoming out of date any time soon, and makes a sincere effort to both be fair and seen as fair, which can be hard to do in today's climate. I don't know if it can get the attention of people who aren't already invested in campaign finance reform or if it will make those viewers more passionate on the subject, but it makes an honest effort, and you can't necessarily ask for more than that." (more)

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